A recycling pathway for cyanogenic glycosides evidenced by the comparative metabolic profiling in three cyanogenic plant species

Martina Pičmanová, Elizabeth H. Neilson, Mohammed S. Motawia, Carl Erik Olsen, Niels Agerbirk, Christopher J. Gray, Sabine Flitsch, Sebastian Meier, Daniele Silvestro, Kirsten Jørgensen, Raquel Sánchez-Pérez, Birger Lindberg Møller, Nanna Bjarnholt

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Cyanogenic glycosides are phytoanticipins involved in plant defence against herbivores by virtue of their ability to release toxic HCN upon tissue disruption. In addition, endogenous turnover of cyanogenic glycosides without the liberation of HCN may offer plants an important source of reduced nitrogen at specific developmental stages. To investigate the presence of putative turnover products of cyanogenic glycosides, comparative metabolic profiling using LC-MS/MS and HR-MS complemented by ion-mobility mass spectrometry was carried out in three cyanogenic plant species: cassava, almond and sorghum. In total, the endogenous formation of 36 different chemical structures related to the cyanogenic glucosides linamarin, lotaustralin, prunasin, amygdalin and dhurrin was discovered, including di- and triglycosides derived from these compounds. The relative abundance of the compounds was assessed in different tissues and developmental stages. Based on results common to the three phylogenetically unrelated species, a potential recycling endogenous turnover pathway for cyanogenic glycosides is described in which reduced nitrogen and carbon are recovered for primary metabolism without the liberation of free HCN. Glycosides of amides, carboxylic acids and “anitriles” derived from cyanogenic glycosides appear as common intermediates in this pathway and may also have individual functions in the plant. The recycling of cyanogenic glycosides and the biological significance of the presence of the turnover products in cyanogenic plants open entirely new insights into the multiplicity of biological roles cyanogenic glycosides may play in plants.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiochemical Journal
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)375-389
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Cassava
  • Almond
  • Sorghum
  • Endogenous turnover
  • Ion-mobility mass spectrometry


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